Why do I like certain music more than others?

Have you ever wondered why you are attracted to certain musical sounds, and some not?  Some people enjoy Bach, while some Shostakovitch! Very diverse sounds in music indeed!

New research from McGill University demonstrates evidence behind why a person enjoys certain sounds.

The researchers found that reward prediction errors from music correlated with activity in the nucleus accumbens, a brain region that in previous studies has been shown to activate when the subject is experiencing musical pleasure.
Credit: Ben Gold

What did the researchers notice?

Researchers examined the types of music people enjoyed and the types of music people did not enjoy through movement activities. Participants would associate a sound that they liked with a certain movement, and music they didn’t like with other movements.  It became noticeable that the individuals began connecting movements with positive sounds. This caused them to move in the way that created the most attractive sounds more often.  This, the researchers suggested, proved that movement could be rewarded with positive music sounds.


Why is this useful to know?

If music can be a reward incentive, we can use music to promote good behaviour. At home, maybe you can play a game with your family.  You can begin by observing good behaviours that you see in those around you, and behaviours you wish could diminish.  Next, you can identify which sounds and songs your family members each enjoy the most.  Then, you can experiment with playing the music they enjoy more often when they complete behaviour that you want to encourage!

When I was in high school, the school council team played a song that wasn’t so desirable during lunch. The team wanted to raise money by playing songs we thought were annoying, and were hoping we would donate to have the song turned off! It didn’t work, but it was a fun activity.

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